Question 1: The amygdala is part of the limbic system, which is defined as a group of brain structures that are involved in motivation, memory, feelings, and learning. The limbic system is also involved in the regulation of one’s different basic drives of sexual activity, thirst, aggression, hunger, sleeping, body temperature, and blood pressure.

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The amygdala is the part of the brain that is activated when one is processing feelings such as fear and aggression. The amygdala can cause an extreme emotional response to something, such as being held at gunpoint, almost drowning in a swimming pool, learning that someone has just passed away, or getting attacked by a large dog. The body can respond in many ways, such as sweating, shaking, getting sweaty palms, and/or increasing somebody’s heart rate. When one’s amygdala is constantly being triggered, one can learn to avoid certain situations that cause a strong emotional response. Over time, this is not a good thing and can cause people to avoid certain things that create a fearful response in someone. Unfortunately, an overactive limbic system can result in anxiety, panic disorder, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder .

Just one of four parts in the limbic system, the amygdala is also connected to the hypothalamus, thalamus, and hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a large role in processing and creating new memories, while the hypothalamus deals with sleeping and waking up, hunger, the sex drive, thirst, regulating body temperature, and blood pressure. The thalamus operates by serving as the relay structure that sends important pieces of information to the brain’s cortex. These four structures are all interconnected and work together through the activating of sensory systems, visual information, different neurons, the digestive system, and receptors .

Question #2: Social Learning Theory (SLT), a theory of learning developed by Alfred Bandura states that people learn by observation and instruction by other people, rewards and consequences shaping one’s behavior. SLT also states that one’s behavior is shaped by one’s environment, which is known as reciprocal determinism. A four year old child who claps and dances and always gets a smile and hug from his mother afterwards will likely continue his or her dancing, based on the reward of affection and attention. According to SLT, there are four elements that factor into learning a behavior. These include attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. This means that one must see a behavior that makes an impact, recall how to perform behavior, be able to mimic behavior, and be motivated to carry out this behavior, based on potential consequences and rewards attached to behavior .

B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning states that a response happens and the rewards or punishments that occur afterwards determine if the behavior will be repeated. Concepts such as positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and reinforcement schedules are all part of Skinner’s theory. For instance, if a child gets a 95% on his paper and receives ten dollars and much praise from her parents, the response of trying to get good grades will likely continue, which is known as positive reinforcement .

I feel that Social Learning Theory betters describes human behavior, which is shaped by many factors that Bandura described, such as being motivated to perform behavior, paying attention, and one’s environment. In the case where the child got rewarded for getting a 95%, perhaps her good grades have resulted in her being called a “nerd’ by her friends. In spite of the potential reward of money that Skinner focuses on, she may also be ostracized. This is something that Skinner’s operant conditioning does not seem to consider, as it solely focus on rewards and consequences versus other aspects of environment that SLT does take into consideration.

    References
  • Amen, D. (1998). Change your brain, change your life. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, N. (2011). Psychology. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
  • Licht, H. &. (2014). Scientific American: Psychology (1st ed.). New York : Worth Publishers.